August's Youth Trapper of the Month
First, I would like to say, since we started doing this last month the response has been amazing. I have got to hear alot of wonderful stories and I can't wait to share them all with you. One story that really stuck out though was about a young man named Ben.
Now, alot of you know that I (Linda White) do alot of work with youth in trapping, and because of that, this was not the first time I hear about Ben. I have hear many stories about the type of young man he was, and his wonderful spirit! Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to meet Ben, but after hearing from his father David Stromecki and others, I knew this was a story we needed to share.
From the words of his father:
"As a young child, Ben had a passion for being outside. His passions started early with fishing and this continued throughout. He began an interest in trapping by trying to catch whatever he could. He began by building his own box traps and using his Mother’s bird seed as bait. He would run his string into the front flower beds where he would sit patiently until something ventured underneath and it was game on. Through trial and error, he refined his traps, so they were efficient, and the grin of success would occur more frequently.
To Ben, the ability to catch the animal or bird wasn’t the end, it was an event. One day while being watched by his older sister, using one of his cardboard box traps, he caught a bird. He contained within the box and the next call we received was from her telling us Ben had a bird in a box, in the house! He made it comfortable with food, water and grass. He studied it for hours until we retuned home and made him release it.
As he got older he moved to the chipmunks and squirrels. We instilled in him of which were protected by seasons, so the chipmunks and reds were fair game. One summer without Mom knowing (for several weeks) he worked on the chipmunks. Twenty something later, Mom found out and the game was on for her to try and find them and spring them on him. He used a small live trap to catch the reds and it was always interesting when he got one or a grey. When season would come for greys, he wanted to learn to skin them which was only allowed if the remainder would be utilized. With an uncanny taste for food, he was happy to do so. He progressed to larger live traps and so did the animals; cats, raccoons, opossum and fortunately no skunks. Mom considered these her pets, so all would be released for another day.
As we would see Hoot's Fur at the different outdoor shows, a discussion was had that he wanted a hat. He wanted to catch his own raccoons, so Hoot gave him pointers on timing, prep, etc. and told him that if he got his own fur, he would have one made. He always invited Ben to come to the various trapping seminars and we attended the first one in December 2016. With some minor convincing by Hoot at the seminar, he was offered to be sponsored by ECTA for the 2017 Pat Arnold Youth Camp at Camp Rushford
In November 2016 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was immediately admitted for surgery. We were blessed the Doctors got the tumor out and the side effects were extremely minor. He would undergo radiation and chemotherapy for many months but his drive for the outdoors and trapping would not stop. August of 2017 the Doctors noticed abnormalities in his MRI which prompted another surgery to biopsy the end of September where we learned the cancer had returned. October came, and he attended the Pat Arnold Camp just a week before undergoing another series of radiation treatment.
While not feeling well that weekend, Ben was in his element and listened intently and loved working with his mentors Sam & Von. During the water section with Sam, Ben was adamant of walking the swamp vs riding in a boat. While the conibears were tough, his patience and attention to detail given by Sam showed the next morning with 2 beavers, 3 muskrats and a rat which he was proud of.
The afternoon, he again listened intently and after being shown once by Von Strahan , he was on his way to making sets on his own. His passion for learning from them was evident the next days because he was exhausted. Again, that wouldn’t stop him from picking up a skinning knife Sunday afternoon. The knowledge he learned carried forward as he worked his own trapline.
After several weeks of treatment and obtaining more equipment, his line began with 10 fox sets and 6 dog proofs. The first morning he caught a Red & opossum. His third day he would obtain a double of Reds. After deer season we were blessed to get a coyote set out on family property where they had UTV’s that would allow him to check it no matter how much snow or cold. The set location was not ideal, but this motivation gave him an opportunity to get out in the field for short periods when he was not feeling good.
As the season ended, his totals would be 5 Reds, many opossums and 1 raccoon. "
It saddens me to say that in March, Ben lost his fight. His spirit and love for trapping lives on with each life he touched! I do have to say though, it makes me happy to know that when going through such a hard time, he had an amazing way of life that kept his spirits up and a smile on his face.
I would like to end with saying Thank you!
Thank you, to those of you who are helping our youth enjoy trapping has much as we do. You are making a difference in these young lives more than you know! Also, Thank you to Dave for sharing this amazing story about his little boy.
May your chains be tight everyone, thanks for reading